July 20, 2006

Tales of Zeke, the Wonder Dog

I'd like to thank everyone for their support and love these past two days. Zeke clearly made an impression on folks, and I've gotten some terrific words of wisdom on his passing. My favorite so far has been -

"As long as someone, somewhere, is still picking Zeke's hair off
of something, he'll never be truly gone..."

And I'd like to share three stories of my beastie with you, each from the prime of his life. In the summer of 1998 he and I embarked on a great adventure, moving ourselves to San Francisco. The new environment provided many opportunities for Zeke to demonstrate his character.

This first one is from the Spring of 1999 --

I was scrambling up the mountainside, clawing for purchase on the loose, dry gravel. Zeke, with his four-paw drive and low center of gravity was having a much easier time of it, and was roving up and down the very steep incline, literally running circles around me as I climbed. "Not one of my better ideas," I remember thinking to myself as I involuntarily slid a few inches down the cliff face. It was a gorgeous San Francisco afternoon and in the distance I could see hundreds of boats in the bay, but at this particular time on this particular trail, Zeke and I were quite alone.

Earlier that day when I had opened the hatch of the jeep and called to Zeke with his second favorite word ("Ride?") I hadn't known where we were heading, nor was there anyone to tell. An hour later we found ourselves walking a lonely, wooded trail above Baker Beach when I came across the stony cliff looming high above us, promising a breathtaking view from its top. I love a good scrabble up a cliff, and Zeke always was as sure-footed as a mountain goat, so up we went; an impulse climb for two intrepid adventurers.

It wasn't until I found myself on all fours, slipping in sandstone, that it occurred to me that not only would a fall very likely be fatal, but no one would even think to look for us for days.
As I admitted to myself that going further upward was out of the question, I began glancing around for the surest path back to secure ground. Yet getting back down to a place of some safety was no easy task either, with gravity tugging on me and the ground I was clinging to alarmingly unstable. While I considered my limited options and caught my breath I went totally motionless, to keep from losing my very tenuous perch.

Zeke chose this moment to come up behind me, and crouching low he stuck his head under my right arm and start noodling around. I'm clinging to the Earth by my fingernails at this point, and the last thing I need is my dog interpreting my inactivity as an invitation to wrestle.

"Zeke, now is not the time..." I started to say, when it dawned on me that he wasn't messing with me at all. He had worked his head up under my arm, and then his shoulders up into my armpit, and very slowly he began to stand, taking some of my weight. In his own doggie way, he recognized that I was in distress and was trying to help me out by giving me, literally, something to lean on.

I thanked him, and he slobbered on me, and breathed his doggie breath directly into my nose which may have been his motive all along, and spurred on by the thought of having to be rescued by my own dog I crab-walked over to some scrawny bushes, and eventually worked my way back down the mountain to the trail. When we were safe and in no further danger of plummeting to our doom, I tried to thank him properly for his concern.

Alas, in the way of dogs he had already forgotten all about it and was far more interested in what trouble we could get into next.

These next two are reprints of stories I shared with some fellow Akita owners several years back, which some of you may have read before. Both are from 1998, just after we had moved to the Bay Area...

From: "Miller, Daniel"
Subject: Zeke the Avenger

So I'm walking my five year old male Zeke Sunday morning, and we pass this guy walking his three little yappy dogs. Zeke and his dogs sniff, and then agree to go their separate ways. While I continue to window shop the guy moves along, and turns the corner.

A few seconds later, I reach the same corner, and looking down the hill (one of those archetypical San Francisco hills, that are almost straight up and down) I see the guy whom Zeke and I just met, and across the street, a pit bull mix tied to a fire hydrant, barking and straining at his leash to get to the three yappy dogs. Sure enough, the pit gets free, and tears ass across the street at the guy's dogs. The guy starts screaming (seeing a maniacal pit charging him and his dogs, no wonder) and tries to pick up his three yappys.

Zeke, intent upon the unfolding drama, also starts hauling ass down the street. And I do mean DOWN the street; it's something like a 60 degree angle. There are few everyday occurrences as humbling as the feeling of helplessness one encounters when tied to a hundred pound Akita who is going full throttle down a steep hill...

The pit reaches the yappys, and starts laying into them. The guy is kicking at the pit, and twisting, and doing his best to keep his dogs out of harm's way, but he's got three on a leash and the pit was loose and in a frenzy. The pit was so intent, it didn't even notice us coming, although the guy did and he was even more frantic at the thought of another dog joining the fray.

I freely admit I had no control over Zeke at this point. I had precious little control over my own balance, and there was no way I could gain purchase enough to stop Zeke from doing what he had raced down the hill to do. The pit was barking and snarling and snapping, and the three yappys were screaming. Zeke entered the melee and immediately proceeded to demonstrate on the big bully what it was like to grow up in Brooklyn and Queens...

Zeke hip-checks the pit, lifting it off the ground and bouncing it off a VW microbus (I know, San Francisco...), and then Zeke throws a full-frontal smush on him, totally encompassing and immobilizing the pit's body on the sidewalk. Not knowing when to quit, the pit starts to squirm, and Zeke just bites down on its face, hard; his top jaw right over the pit's eye, the bottom under the pits jaw. This produced a squeal from the pit, as well as a decent amount of blood.

And Zeke just held him there. The pit couldn't move, and Zeke held his jaws on the dog's face, and kept him still. Catching my breath, I asked the guy how his three yappys were, and he said there didn't seem to be anything more than some scratches. Then a woman comes screaming across the street, yelling at me because Zeke was attacking her dog! The guy with the yappys just let her have it -- how her dog almost killed his, and he hopes Zeke rips it apart, etc. Meanwhile Zeke is still just laying on the pit, with its face in his mouth, as nonchalant as an Akita with a pit bull's face in his mouth is wont to be.

The lady hooks her leash onto the pit, and I say "Zeke, UP!" He doesn't move an inch, but his eyes look up at mine, as if to ask "Are you sure?" I say again, "Zeke, UP!" and he does, jumping off and back really quickly, I suppose in case the pit attempted to bite him. But the pit just laid there. I suggested to the woman that she take the dog to a vet to have its face looked at, and that she then head to a Barnes and Nobles to get a book on being a responsible dog owner. As we started to walk away, Zeke went over to a wall and pee'd. I was really hoping he would pee a big "Z" on the wall, but it was only some squirty dribble...

-- Dan and Zeke, the Defender of the Meek

Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998

From: "Miller, Daniel"
Subject: The old dog and the sea...

Hi folks,

I took Zeke to the beach this past weekend, and it was his first time at the ocean. He loved the sand and got into digging, which he had never really been into before, and he seemed to like the seaweed, which I guess was squishy in that way that Akitas love so much.

The best part was the water, though. Zeke loves to just plunk down on his belly in cool water, and the ocean by Santa Cruz is nice and chilly. So he strolled down the beach and plunked down in the ocean at about the half-Akita line, and began to wallow in pleasure -- brief pleasure, as it was less than ten seconds before he was capsized by a tsunami with his name on it.

He jumped up and shook off, and seemed really upset with the ocean for the dunking. He then looked about to see if anyone had seen his embarrassment, and with a grunt plunked down again. Sure enough, he was once again swamped by the incoming tide, and he once again jumped up, shook off, and then plunked back down in the water.

As stubborn as Zeke is, and despite his making it a personal war between himself and the sea, after about 6 of these engagements he'd had enough. With a growl and a playbow he dared the waves to chase him up the beach, and then barked and taunted the water in triumph when the cowardly ocean refused.

I couldn't tell if it was the dousing, or merely the familiarity that the ocean was claiming that riled Zeke the most. Although they had made up by the end of the day and were playing nicely together, that first impression was my favorite...

-- Dan and Zeke (the wet and stinky dog)
Thank you for indulging me. We will shortly return to your regularly scheduled non-Zeke related programming...


At 11:32 AM, Blogger Mr.T said...

I forgot about that Pit Bull story, and had never heard the wave story, I had best see some dynamic duo stories. :)

At 11:04 PM, Blogger dragonfly101 said...

That is so sweet. And you know, oh, wait.... this is too personal.


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